Saturday, 21 September 2019

University Challenge 2020 - Round One - LSE v. The Courtauld Institute

LSE v. The Courtauld Institute

Last Monday was another London University Derby. Now, yes, being a London University old boy myself I always enjoy this, but I have to say that I did have a couple of qualms. You see, a specialist institution like the Courtauld and the LSE, for example, is always I feel at a disadvantage because by their nature they aren’t going to field teams with such a wide range of specialisms. Still, let’s see how it all worked out. Representing LSE were Kevin Schilling, Finn Dignan, James Engels and captain Zara Elstein. For the Courtauld we had Asher Silver, Morgan Haigh, Nancy Collinge and their skipper Harry Prance.

Right, as the first question was unfolding, ‘award held annually’ had me thinking Nobel, and ‘witheld on 19 occasions’ irresistibly pointed to the Peace prize. Both teams sat on their buzzers until the question was completed until Harry Prance won the buzzer race to supply the correct answer. The Muses from Stephen Fry’s Mythos – a good read too – provided just the one bonus. Kevin Schilling buzzed fairly quickly to identify the work of the film director Ang Lee. LSE’s bonuses on tortoises and turtles were all despatched to the boundary fairly quickly. The next starter, on molecular biology surprisingly gave me a very early lap around the living room for recognising hormones. Neither team managed that one. I don’t blame Harry Prance for going early with the London Underground river and offering the best known of them, the Fleet. However the full question required the Tyburn, which let Finn Dignan in. This gave the LSE bonuses on coal tar, and they took 2, (even though they don’t study coal tar at the LSE, Jeremy). Pictures, then. We were shown a section from the opening scene of a Shakespeare play and asked for the two missing words, which presumably rhymed in Shakespeare’s time, even though they don’t now. Morgan Haigh supplied both heath and Macbeth. More of the same brought one bonus, for which modest return they still earned the coveted Paxman well done. On the cusp of the 10 minute mark, then, LSE led by 40 – 25.

Guruparabs, as Harry Prance knew, are events in Sikhism. This gave the Courtauld a set of bonuses on great paintings of the 1880s. JP took pleasure in pointing out that one of the paintings they failed to identify – Manet’s Bar at the Folies Bergere, is actually in the Courtauld. Never mind. The next starter was about an artist. Hmm. Morgan Haigh took that with Augustus John. Trees in Britain gave another bonus, and Courtauld were in the lead. Neither team managed to dredge up catastrophe theory for the next starter. Neither team managed a gettable starter involving knowing works by Hill and Mill thus giving them herb which rhymes with them – dill. A third consecutive starter went unanswered about studies into the behaviour of honeybees. It seemed like a long time since we’d had a correct answer, so it was a blessed relief when Finn Dignan identified Thomas Carlyle as the man who coined the phrase ‘ the dismal science’. Actors’ directorial debuts did nowt for any of us. This brought us to the music set. I wonder how many people said Andrew Lloyd Webber for the next starter. It was of course Paganini with his well known ‘Theme of the South Bank Show’. Morgan Haigh took that. More variations on this particular piece by different composers brought just a single bonus, but in this low scoring contest every bonus looked like it was going to count. Zara Elstein took a starter for her team with the term fam. Organic Chemistry provided me with another lap of honour answer, since I remember from the old Pears Quiz Companion that Kekule is noted alongside the words benzene ring. Amazingly I also knew toluene and naphthalene. Well, I’m very sorry, but doing 4 laps of honour in one show is taking the proverbial. LSE managed a brace of these. The next question had a helpful reference to a painting by Monet – you didn’t even need to be an art student to know that this was obviously Rouen, and Morgan Haigh picked that particular piece of low hanging fruit. Royal Parks brought what I think was Courtauld’s first full house of the contest. This meant that by the 20 minute mark they led by 85 – 60.

Finn Dignan was the first to recognise a set of Eagles for the next starter. Oh, look, I said - it's another art set of bonuses. What were the chances of that happening? These went begging. Finn Dignan was nowhere near with his reckless buzz to the next starter, but the Courtauld couldn’t identify the widely acclaimed world’s worst poet, William Topaz McGonagall. Nonetheless, Courtauld seemed to have their collective tail up, since Harry Prance even took the next Maths starter. Astronomy and Geography provided one bonus. To be fair the second picture starter is often art based, so we can’t really complain that this week’s showed us a sculpture. Harry Prance identified the composition as a pieta. Unsurprisingly the set of paintings that followed brought the Courtauld a full house, and unless the LSE were to develop an hitherto undisplayed turn of foot, they were going to win now. Nancy Collinge won the buzzer race to identify Geraint Thomas as the writer of The Tour According to G. National capitals beginning with the same two letters brought nowt. Finn Dignan hadn’t given up and won the buzzer race to identify the term pastoral. Terms used in newspaper titles brought a full house, and at least gave the LSE a fighting chance of a triple figure final score. No point asking the next chemistry starter, and so we moved on without anyone buzzing. Nobody fancied a punt at various Siegfried’s, so Harry Prance took that unconsidered trifle. Royal figures who appeared in Hugh Thomas’ History of the Slave Trade saw them incorrectly answer the first and then the contest was gonged, Courtauld winning by 165 – 90.

Well done Courtauld. In all honesty this really wasn’t a great contest. Courtauld only managed a 42% conversion rate. LSE did better with 56%, but they had so few bonuses to try and convert since only Finn Dignan was slinging any buzzer for them. Against a decent buzzing team with more balanced team, and a less friendly set of questions I’d suggest that the Courtauld might struggle in round 2, but hey, what do I know?

Jeremy Paxman Watch

When the Courtauld failed to hazard a guess for the hormones starter he chuckled, “No, I can see the problem, Courtauld. You don’t study much of that, do you?!” No Jez, neither do the LSE for that matter, although you chose not to patronise them as well.

Interesting that, because this seemed to be an overt acknowledgement that the Courtauld weren’t going to be able to do anything with questions on the Sciences. Maybe it was just me, but it did seem to me that this was a very Arts heavy, Science light show this week. Coincidence? Maybe. When the Courtauld only scored on the last bonus for great paintings of the 1880s he rather sneered, “It may be enough to salvage some honour . . . but I doubt it.”

Harry Prance offered a speculative punt of Swinburne as the world’s worst poet, to which JP replied in indignation “Swinburne?! He would be mortified!” Quite right – everyone knows he was the jockey who rode Shergar to the 1981 Derby.

Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week

There are no flower beds in Green Park because Catherine of Braganza didn’t want Charles II picking them to give to his floozies.

1 comment:

Jack said...

Yeah, not the best match, though perhaps better than the low scoring one from last month, and I agree that Courtauld will need to improve, especially on the bonuses (12/28, compared to L.S.E.'s 10/18), to reach the QFs.

On Monday, Dave, your lot at Goldsmiths play Southampton. No show the week after due to LIVE athletics; when the show returns, hopefully the week after, Huddersfield will be making its UC debut.